January 05, 2005

The Hobbit House and the Possibility of Moving

God, it was good to be home.

I left Seattle almost 7 years ago now, and I am still stumped when anyone asks me why. I mean, I have no regrets about the move, and considering I met the Missus F down here, it certainly worked out well. Still, the Pacific Northwest is my home, and probably always will be. It started strange though, as we stayed at my Dad’s house (where I had never been before) in a place called Elk Plain (which is even more remote than it sounds, if possible). It took me several days to get my bearings. Plus we had to deal with the post-divorce split-family Christmas, which is never easy. Once we got past the holiday though, it turned into a wonderful time.

This was an important vacation to me, even beyond reconnecting with family. This was Ensie’s first visit up north, and I wanted her to like it. When I met her, she was adamant about not wanting to leave San Diego. I was okay with that. I like San Diego. It is difficult NOT to like San Diego. Recently though, with the dawning that we may never be able to own a home here, the Missus and I have been shopping around for a new home. I did not really consider Seattle at first, since it is nearly as difficult to buy a home in Seattle as it is in Southern California. Though I bounced around the PNW has a kid, from Renton to Bellingham to the Tri-Cities and Spokane as well, home to me as always been that stretch of Seattle and east King County between the I90 and 520 bridges. We would have the same luck buying a home in Kirkland as we would in Scripps Ranch. So, we thought about Ann Arbor (more work-related than anything), Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Boise (much nicer than you would think), Salt Lake City (immediately shot down by the Missus), and the wilds of Colorado. The last is where the Frinklin In-Laws will eventually settle.

My Dad had a different idea.


My first thought to that was my father is apparently crazy. Tacoma? Oakland to Seattle’s San Francisco? The ugly, industrial city infamous for its aroma and rampant crime? Are you insane?

No, it’s not like that anymore, he told me. The city is in the midst of a renaissance. It’s Seattle just before the LA/Orange County-inspired suburban onslaught of the late-80’s. Money has been pouring into downtown; they have rebuilt the area on Commencement Bay and the Thea Foss Waterway. A new convention center, two new art museums and innumerable restaurants and clubs he told me. Moreover, it is still affordable. Get in on the ground floor, be part of the gentrification. So, the Missus and I took a look on various real estate sites on the Net. We checked out Tacoma’s tourism site. It certainly looks nicer than it did. The houses are cute, and really what we’re looking for. Neither Ensie nor I are much into newer houses. We love character. Meaning we love old houses. If we were at a stage where money was not an object, she would want a home in Mission Hills of San Diego, while I would head for a restored Victorian up on Queen Anne in Seattle.

Obviously then, one of the main reasons for our recent vacation was to check out T-town. We looked at houses one morning, but weren’t really impressed with anything. The most promising to me was cute, but had suffered through a horrific mid-80’s renovation and looked much like a bachelor apartment from 1985, especially in the kitchen. The most promising to Ensie was cute, but small, and (to me anyway) somewhat dumpy. It turned out that one had water problems and could have fallen over at any time.

That afternoon we were discouraged. We headed out to Mt. Rainier and recharged. That night, my Dad found a new house for us to check out. Ensie thought it was promising, and it was empty, so we could visit at night. We headed out there, and our first impression was how incredibly cute it was.

Also, how incredibly small it was. I mean, really… it was adorable. Old, recently renovated, and full of cute little details forgotten in today’s houses. It was also about the size of the most recent Barbie Dream House. It is also spaced a little oddly. The walls upstairs curve in drastically. The house had an almost organic feel to it, and coupled with its size that made it The Hobbit House. It was not a stretch between this place and Bag End. It is listed as a three-bedroom, but it is closer to one and a couple pieces of bedroom. We loved it though, especially the renovated kitchen. It was in good shape, with a new furnace and water heater. It was in our price range too.

We didn’t put an offer down. We considered it. A lot. In the end though, we decided the Hobbit House probably is not for us. It did rekindle our interest though, and the next morning Ensie and I went exploring Tacoma. I was shocked. My Dad was right. The city has poured a lot of money and effort into improving. The downtown was terrific, exactly as Dad had described it.

Now what?

We’re still looking… Dad sends us his info on recent listings every day. In fact, we found one on Friday we really liked. Dad checked it out and found it was only three doors from a dog park. The Missus and I find ourselves in a weird limbo right now. We want to move, but we haven’t really decided. Combine that with my time running out on the job and… well, you have a lot of uncertainly.

And a lot of opportunity. It will be interesting.

To us, I mean.

Posted by Frinklin at January 5, 2005 05:33 PM

Have you considered the Kitsap Peninsula? Bainbridge Island is too spendy for mere mortals, I know, but Kingston is getting a private passenger ferry directly to downtown Seattle (it starts this month, and will have wi-fi, I hear). So, right now, prices in Kingston / Hansville / Poulsbo and such are about as low as they're going to be. Much more affordable than Seattle. And, while there's a lot of 70's era architectural nastiness, there are also some nice older homes with character. Not as many as you'd find in Seattle, but a lot less $$$ when you do find them.

Worth considering, anyway. Good luck on your search!

Posted by: Deus ex Macrame at January 7, 2005 10:40 PM

Thanks for the tip. I hadn't really considered Kitsap yet. We like the idea of being in the city, but we're open to just about anything.

Posted by: frinklin at January 8, 2005 10:59 AM
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